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When a Book Is a World

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Whether it's the indulgent hours or lighter genres, summer reading is characterized by its reverie. In My Summer Books, NPR hosts and reporters share their memories of summer reading and books. Today, Farai Chideya, a correspondent for News & Notes with Ed Gordon:

What makes a good summer read for you?

When a book is a world, that makes great summer reading. You should be able to float away like an explorer in a spacesuit, tethered to reality only by the pages of the book. Only books this all-encompassing can compete with the lure of the beach or the park or the mountains or an air-conditioned movie theater.

Do you have an all-time favorite summer book?

It's a pain to carry around, but I love the Riverside Shakespeare. It's a world within a world: a world of human emotion, literary allusion, and history wrapped in prose. There's a reason why Shakespeare's plays have remained staples in the dramatic, literary, and educational worlds: He knew people. So every now and then I return to Lear and Cordelia, or Falstaff, or these other characters created in a world far different from ours, but so emotionally similar.

Are there other books from other summers that have stuck with you?

I have a weakness for science fiction and fantasy. One of the first "big person" books I read from tip to tail was the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. (Okay, it was three books, but it read like one.) I would stay awake late at night reading about battles between humans and orcs and wizards and I didn't even mind being sleepy the next day.

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